Border communities say Washington debate over immigration is misguided

By Julie Watson

Associated Press

Published: Saturday, Sept. 7 2013 11:31 a.m. MDT

In Texas, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials in April re-established a remote crossing along the Rio Grande in Big Bend National Park where people arrive to the U.S. via a small boat and scan passports at a visitor's center.

The unmanned crossing was closed after the Sept. 11 attacks. It was reopened to comply with a decades-old bilateral agreement that formed a binational park by linking Big Bend to Mexican wildlands, said CBP spokesman Bill Brooks.

The isolated Mexican community, Boquillas del Carmen, depended on the boat crossing for tourism and getting supplies in Texas. Its population dropped after the crossing closed. Some are now moving back, Brooks said.

Federal authorities in San Diego County started giving access to the last of three border walls for a few hours on Sundays.

Families unable to leave the U.S. while their immigration status is in flux talked through the barrier with deported loved ones standing on the Mexican side.

On a Sunday in July, a teenage boy with a Dodger's cap and baggy jeans cried as he touched his father's fingertip through minute holes in the fence's metal screen.

The pastors prayed nearby.

Along the same stretch, Daniel Watman planted a garden in 2007 that connects with a garden on the Mexican side. He had to rip out the U.S. section in 2008 to make way for a second steel wall. He replanted the next year but was handcuffed trying to water it before negotiating permission to tend the area.

Today the garden is flourishing but few can visit it because of security restrictions.

"Life at the border is way more difficult than it needs to be," Watman said.

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